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New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax 27 match recommendations: Nights 14-18

NJPW World

As always, I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.

Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.

And of course, because this is the G1 Climax, we'll be focusing on tournament matches only for the duration and keeping it relatively short and sweet, folks-- we've got 19 shows to get through here in less than a month, after all. This being the third match recommendation post for this year’s G1, naturally you can check out the first here, the second here, and the third here if you missed them.

Night Fourteen (B Block, August 5)

Tama Tonga vs. Toru Yano (3): Shenanigans outside before the bell and after, Tonga at one point taping Yano to the guardrail to try and force a count-out but you can't put the Sublime Master Thief away that easy. Not a huge amount of narrative to recapitulate, just a nice little comedy match. Watch appropriately.

SANADA vs. Satoshi Kojima (4): Feeling out, Kojima's frisky but SANADA's just a step ahead of him. The old man starts to carve an advantage out but they go striking and he finds himself on the back foot, SANADA even turning his machine gun chops against him. A bit of underhanded tactics from both men leave them with gentleman's area problems and Satoshi is able to dominate the match a while, leading it to become a question of whether SANADA's speed and recovery could outlast Kojima's veteran wiles and power. Enjoyable stuff!

Michael Elgin vs. Minoru Suzuki (3): Big Mike running hot and clearing extraneous members of Suzuki-gun away, even managing to cut Suzuki himself off when he tries to take things outside in his usual style, but inevitably That Damn Numbers Game rears its ugly head.

Minoru takes his sweet time, alternating between grinding at the arm and wailing on Elgin with a steel chair, but back in the ring even a one-armed Big Mike is still VERY strong and able to get some licks in. And so our story is one of whether or not Elgin can get a winning blow in before Suzuki takes his arm apart or his goons run enough interference to catch him out. Enjoyable action with a more concise and visceral brawling segment than some of Suzuki's matches in the tournament, worth the time if you've got it.

Juice Robinson vs. Kenny Omega (5): Juice in the lead after the feeling out, manhandling Omega, outside and back in, but Kenny takes over with a suplex to the outside and Robinson comes up lame. Omega, of course, immediately capitalizes, wrenching and tearing, busting out the ol' ringpost figure four, tearing him up to the point that a ringside medic takes a look but Juice refuses to stop the match.

Robinson rallies, knowing he's got to put it all on the line to have a chance of beating Kenny Omega, and the Cleaner, for his part, takes Juice very seriously indeed here, dumping a proverbial house on him. Robinson's resiliance is unparalleled, Kenny's offense is nigh inexhaustable, and it all amounts to one hell of a match. Watch it!

EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada (4): EVIL with an early advantage but Okada fires back, grinding him down until the King of Darkness heads to his natural environment of the outside for some violence. The tide thus re-turned, the match escalates, intense back and forth action aplenty, until things head back outside again to kick into overdrive.

To wit, EVIL at one point counters the crossbody over the barricade by cold CHUCKING A CHAIR AT OKADA'S HEAD! From there it's bomb city on our way to a really hot finishing stretch. This maybe could have flowed just a tiny bit smoother, there was a bit of a disconnect in places (maybe owing to EVIL being knocked out in his match against Omega shortly before), but it's absolutely good stuff and a really strong watch.

Night Fifteen (A Block, August 6)

Yuji Nagata vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (5): Intense grappling in the feeling out, to the mat, jockeying for position, ending in a stalemate that leaves Sabre shaking his arm out. To the striking, Nagata initiating and putting ZSJ on the back foot but the Evolve World Champion turns things right back around going after Blue Justice's arm with a vengeance. Fighting through the pain, Yuji's ire is raised and he turns to suplexes, but Zack as ever just one strike or wrench of the arm away from re-establishing dominance.

I try to wear my biases on my sleeve in these recommendation posts, so you'll forgive me for going a bit strong on this one, but the bit where Nagata rolls through Nagata Lock II into Nagata Lock IV trying to find something to put Sabre away was more than enough for me to kick this up to a five-boy, nevermind the intensity of the rest of it.

Kota Ibushi vs. YOSHI-HASHI (3): Tacos feels the need to take things outside early, and the strategy works for him because when he takes it back inside he's well in charge, grinding Ibushi down. Kota gets a few dropkicks off for an opening and his educated feet do the rest, taking him back past even.

Golden Triangle cracks the door open even wider, but HASHI ain't out of the fight yet, really unloading and trying to simply overwhelm Ibushi. Too often he makes the mistake of trying to go shot for shot with the Golden Star, and the story becomes one of if Tacos can keep his focus on what works long enough to finish the job. Hardly essential, but good stuff.

Bad Luck Fale vs. Hirooki Goto (1): Fale well in charge early, taking Goto outside (shock!) and working over his leg a bit before taking it back inside where Hirooki begins to fight back a little but can't quite rally until he sidesteps a charge. Chopping Bad Luck down bit by bit, it becomes clear that this is a bog standard Fale match.

Which, just to be clear, when we get one of these matches in the New Japan Cup or at Sakura Genesis or Wrestling Dontaku or whatever, it's a very welcome change of pace, but at this point in the G1 Climax we've had quite enough of these and it needs to be really special to clear the bar. Ain't bad, but pass.

Tetsuya Naito vs. Togi Makabe (1): Makabe in hot clubbing away right from the jump! They brawl way outside, to the wall of the arena, as referee Red Shoes Unno tries to restore order. Back inside, Naito in charge now, grinding the Unchained King Kong down, clubbing away himself. Back and forth action continues, both guys taking it pretty easy here, which makes sense given that we're in the final stretch, Makabe's getting up there in age, and Naito could surely use the proverbial night off. Things heat up a little towards the end, but there's really not much there. Pass.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (5): Tanahashi game to go strike for strike but Ishii and his two functioning arms pull ahead until the one-armed ace hits a crossbody. He gets cocky and the rally never really gets going as Tom keeps throwing hard strikes at him. Inevitably the 1/100 dude finds an opening big enough to exploit and stays serious to do so, but the Stone Pitbull really ain't having it today, giving back as good as he gets, if not better.

Tanahashi starts going after the legs and it's like a switch flips, finally he can get through to Ishii. So naturally, Tom upgrades to bombs and this leads Hiroshi to follow suit, but the home stretch is more about grinding each other into dust than big moves. Really good match, especially for how late in the tournament it came and how banged up these guys are.

Night Sixteen (B Block, August 8)

Satoshi Kojima vs. Tama Tonga (2): Tonga playing games early, putting Kojima's ring coat on and mocking his machine gun chops and the Bakayaro! elbow taunt before getting serious and sticking it to the leader of Bread Club. Satoshi rallies, naturally, and feeling his oats he pushes back hard, and so it continues until we hit a finish. Not bad, but not on the level of Kojima's last few, and hardly essential.

Juice Robinson vs. Toru Yano (4): Yano baiting Robinson into crawling under the ring after him early, leaving poor referee Marty Asami completely confused. He gets a sweet countout nearfall off of tying Juice's hair to the barricade and, shenanigans out of the way (relatively speaking), Robinson begins to dominate the match and it's a question of if the Sublime Master Thief can do Sublime Master Thief things to even the tide. Short and sweet and fun as hell, I'm going a little high on this but it's less than five minutes of your life, folks.

EVIL vs. Michael Elgin (3): EVIL trying to start strong but Big Mike is stronger! So of course, the King of Darkness tries to take things into his den of EVIL, the ringside area, and there he finds success knocking Elgin flat on the floor. Back inside, he presses the attack, but he hasn't done enough to REALLY wear Big Mike down and pays the price.

And so, into back and forth action, lots of big moves and cool stuff (including Big Mike hitting a wicked German suplex into the corner and catching EVIL off the turnbuckles into a Falcon Arrow)-- EVIL hasn't had the best track record this year, often struggling to get into the sort of high gear the G1 demands, but against Elgin in HOSS ACTION, the King of Darkness is probably gonna put a smile on your face.

Kenny Omega vs. SANADA (4): Action up a notch early with a forearm exchange giving way to traded leapfrogs and teases of both men's finishers and a real scary moment outside where Omega goes for a moonsault off the barricade and ends up dumping himself on his head. Despite that, when they head back in, SANADA finds himself well in Kenny's control, being choked out by his own shirt at one point.

Slugging it out on a more even playing field, Omega still holding the edge but Cold Skull using his speed once again to carve himself an opening. Big drama over Skull End as we move into the finishing stretch and things escalate through another strike exchange and the nigh-obligatory bombs. Really good stuff, especially towards the end.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki (5): This one shows its difference to their New Beginning match almost immediately. Whereas that was 40 minutes of Suzuki tearing at the leg, this kicks off early with interference and sees Okada's injured neck as the big target, but the thing about that is you can't just relentlessly attack it the whole match with the same ease, and so there's a lot more variety on display here, including periods of more-or-less even-handed slugging it out (like one absolutely wicked slap exchange late in the match) and a LOT of big ol' bombs getting dropped.

One thing it has in common with its predecessor, however, is length, in that it goes about as long as a G1 block match can. But while normally matches going past 25 minutes or so flashes my red "this better be worth it" light, this is really well paced and makes the most of its bloated (by G1 standards) runtime.

Night Seventeen (A Block, August 11)

Bad Luck Fale vs. Yuji Nagata (4): Nagata, as ever, coming hard out the gate, not about to let his last G1 match be any different from the previous eight in terms of his own intensity, but attempts to keep Fale off balance outside fail and the big man begins working him over. Yuji takes it and takes it but is able to create an opening for himself kicking away at the legs to try and chop Bad Luck down.

Fale is able to resume the press but never quite reasserts his dominance, and from there it's just a question of whether Nagata flags before he can finish the job. Not the greatest match, "just" a well-executed version of the standard Fale match, but it being Nagata's last G1 and the effort and emotion that goes with that kick it up a notch.

Togi Makabe vs. YOSHI-HASHI (1): Makabe clubbing away but it's no extended display of dominance as Tacos comes in and squeaks his way into control. Back and forth, just slugging it out at points, this is fine but it never really kicks into another gear or does anything to make itself stand out.

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (5): Mat grappling early, Ishii game to roll around with Sabre but ZSJ decides he'd rather go striking and immediately pays for it, dropped by grueling chops. Zack right back in after he takes his punishment, going to work on the Stone Pitbull's arm with a vengeance to kill the lariat and the brainbuster.

Ishii seizes an opportunity to go back on the offensive but the damage is done and all it takes is a little leverage to get Sabre back in the game, whether to the arm or to the already-injured knee. Predictably, given how great their match in Long Beach was, this was excellent, full of the kind of great exchanges and excellent selling you expect from these guys, and very much worth going out of your way to watch.

Hirooki Goto vs. Kota Ibushi (3): Ibushi pulls ahead in the feeling out with a violent roundhouse to the collarbone but Goto has the Golden Triangle scouted and clobbers him in return and controls the match a while. Kota's lightning fast strikes get him back in the game, fast-paced exchanges, they slow down a bit but the intensity ratchets up.

Clubbing away, hard strikes, the will to victory coming through and it's just a matter of who can land the biggest hit first from there. Not the most essential match, hurt by the way a lot of Ibushi's appeal in this G1 is wrapped up in him working his opponent's match to perfection and, well, Goto's match isn't very interesting or distinctive, but not a bad one by any means.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito (5): Electric atmosphere here, the crowd decidedly mixed when Tanahashi ends the feeling out with a pair of slaps to Naito's face, trying to get in his head and throw the Stardust Genius off his game. Naito catches him with a dropkick to the arm and we're off to the races as he just destroys the one-armed ace's bad arm.

Hiroshi gets a neckbreaker off and mounts a comeback, staying focused as Tetsuya cuts him off, and he smells blood in the water as Naito begins favoring his knee. And so, the story becomes one of a leg for an arm, and the question is which man can handle the pain longest.

Great match, built a lot more around the injury and without the reversals that one-armed Tanahashi couldn't QUITE get off that made their Dominion match such a bummer. Watch it!

Night Eighteen (B Block, August 12)

Juice Robinson vs. Michael Elgin (4): Mat wrestling early but Big Mike decides he'd rather go to his power game and Juice is shockingly game to follow, taking Elgin off guard momentarily. Fighting to the outside (Big Mike hit a cannonball off the apron!), Robinson in a bad place, and so it goes.

Big Mike uses his strength to try and bulldoze Juice, Robinson uses his cunning and resilience to find an opening and throw whatever big shots he can, and so on. Some great reversals here, a really fun slice of the Juice Robinson G1 Experience.

SANADA vs. Tama Tonga (1): A hot start gives way to a bit of t-shirt-based stalling but we get back into quickly enough, Tonga trying to grind SANADA down but finding himself left outside in the Paradise Lock for a countout nearfall. Back in charge on the outside, Tama taking it to Cold Skull but the match doesn't stay one-sided forever.

Anyway, they turn the heat up late but it's too little, too late for me, and there aren't enough cool reversals and fast exchanges in the world to make up for their meandering early. Like, I like slow, "psychological" (in the traditional, received wisdom kind of sense) matches, and I like it when dudes that are good at being fast go real fast too, but if you wanna jam the two together, it's a tricky proposition, and this one just didn't come together for me at all.

Minoru Suzuki vs. Toru Yano (4): Suzuki with the mid-entrance ambush and we head outside for a brawl! Taichi gets more licks in on Yano than Minoru does, and once we head back in the ring it's time for the Sublime Master Thief to do his work. Struggling to avoid being put into the exposed turnbuckle, Suzuki suddenly gets serious, but when his finishing run is denied, it's all about the tape, baby.

Not the top shelf Yano action, a little too much Taichi for that (although I did pop for Rocky Romero leaving the commentary desk to make the save at one point!), but fun stuff all the same.

EVIL vs. Satoshi Kojima (3): Bull moose action early giving way to EVIL's usual outside shenanigans and then some good old-fashioned clubbering. Kojima busting out his pal Tenzan's Mongolian chops as he begins to take the offensive back, the King of Darkness with periods of strength but Satoshi is focused and dead set on making this one count.

Apron DDT, avalanche Cozy Cutter, looking for the lariat but EVIL has his wits about him and stays on course himself, and it's a question of Kojima can keep chucking bombs long enough to put EVIL away. Lariat for lariat, some real good stuff late but the match as a whole feels like it's missing something.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega (5): Right in with hard strikes, ducking finishers, the Dragon suplex, V-Trigger hits turnbuckle pad! Omega nearly gets One Winged Angel off but Okada blocks and dropkicks him to the outside, it's a hell of a start! Fighting outside, the Rainmaker's neck is bugging him and Kenny makes it worse with a slingshot plancha that puts it right into the barricade.

Blood in the water, Omega starts to grind him down, neck cranks and clubs, ripping the tape off and so on. Kenny thinking about piledrivers, and Okada finally starts a comeback only to get cut down with chops to the neck! So it goes, with the IWGP Champion able find openings only for his bum neck to betray him again and again. His incredible resilience has kept the title around his waist, but even that has its limits, and with such an easy target painted on him, well...

This is pretty easily my favorite of their matches-- no wasted time, no flab, no overwrought drama, just a man and his busted neck fighting for his life and the right to be the first IWGP Heavyweight Champion in the G1 Climax finals in years against a man who's never beat him but taken him to the limit on multiple occasions. Excellent, excellent match.

There you have it, folks

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.

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